Dane Baptiste: Reasonable Doubts

Dane Baptiste returns to this year’s Fringe with a bit more notoriety than this time twelve months ago. His nomination for the Fosters Comedy Award last year has raised his stock to the point where, he says, he is somewhere just behind Trevor McDonald’s travel agent on the rank of black British cultural figures (Idris Elba retains his number one spot).

The standard of the writing is undeniably strong.

However, rather than bolstering his confidence, his new found success has led him to have more doubts, not only about his career path, but a whole range of issues in modern society. The premise behind the show is a simple one, but broad enough that it allows him an endless scope of topics he could tackle. In short, he says that the tendency to simplify and compartmentalise aspects of our lives blinds us to the fact the world is so full of contradictions.

The show starts very strongly, with Baptiste describing how his relative recent success has put him in contact with executive-type people who presume he is some sort of a spokesperson for the BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) community. His response to this is brilliant and at this point, about ten minutes in, he seems to have set the groundwork out for what promises to be a great show.

Yet from here he takes a step back onto more conventional territory. Though his observations on male adolescence, ‘chuggers’, and children’s attention spans are sharp and provide plenty of laughs, the shift in tone is a bit unexpected. There’s no real loss of momentum, it’s just that we know he can do (we just saw him do it!) so much better.

Regardless of the continuity of the routines, the standard of the writing is undeniably strong. Each bit hits home, and though some of it might feel a bit shoe-horned in (he gets a lot of material into the hour), their individual quality more than makes up for the seemingly arbitrary jumps from section to section.

When, toward the end, he does slip back into the pattern set out at the beginning, I couldn’t help wondering why he strayed from this vein in the first place (his musings on the notion of celebrity are priceless). He potentially has a lot of material to work with and if he could do away with some of the more banal topics, his measured, laconic style could maximise its effect.

Reasonable Doubts is a decent show from a quality comic but I couldn’t help shaking the feeling of what could have been.

Reviews by Ryan O'Connor

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The Blurb

Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Newcomer nominee 2014. Dane Baptiste returns to the Edinburgh Fringe with a brand new show about doubt. His doubts. Your doubts. Our doubts. Expect fresh perspectives from this original and provocative rising star. The Independent's Face to Watch in 2015. As seen on Sweat the Small Stuff (BBC Three), Virtually Famous (E4) and Live at the Comedy Store (Comedy Central). As heard on BBC Radio 2 and Radio 4. 'Observational comedy at its finest' (Independent). 'Baptiste is a comical genius' **** (EdFestMag.com). 'A thunderingly charismatic comic' (Guardian).